Anti-corruption activist and whistleblower Thabiso Zulu was arrested in a Hollywood-style midnight raid at his home in Copesville when police allegedly kicked down his door on Wednesday.
Zulu blew the whistle on corruption in uMzimkhulu Municipality and the assassination of former ANC Youth League (ANCYL) secretary-general Sindiso Magaqa. He also gave evidence of corruption in Msunduzi Municipality. Police have denied him protection in spite of threats and an attempt on his life.
Zulu’s arrest is believed to have arisen from Monday’s service delivery protest, in which the community called for action against Ward 29 councillor Sphamandla Madlala — an adversary of Zulu.
On Thursday, Zulu was released without appearing in court. Police said he faces charges of intimidation and incitement to commit public violence, and that he was released on R500 bail. He is due to appear in court on August 6.
Speaking to The Witness just after his arrest, a badly beaten Zulu said, with the help of his lawyer Sipho Ngubane, that he had been released because there was nothing against him.
“They were just abusing their power. The docket was empty and they [police] were fighting in the morning [on Wednesday], asking each other why I spent the night in the police cells,” said Zulu.
On Tuesday, The Witness published a story in which Madlala accused Zulu of mobilising the community against him with the aim of being a councillor in the area next year.
Zulu dismissed those claims, saying he has no ambitions of being a councillor.
“I know in South Africa, a person who is fighting corruption is subjected to what I’m going through. A lot of people have been arrested for exposing corruption,” Zulu said.
“I’m very proud of my lawyers, we believe we are right, we are on the clear and I was released without even a bail. Life goes on and people who will ensure my safety are here.”
Madlala said on Thursday: “This matter is sub judice, but I feel that I need to comment, my issues with Thabiso have been going on for three years. This guy has been fabricating stories about me, saying I’m corrupt but investigations have proven him wrong.”
Zulu claimed that the police had assaulted older women, including his mother, and a pregnant neighbour during the arrest. “They insulted them and called women ‘bitches’ and they beat up my neighbour who is pregnant after finding me in her house,” he said.
“They said they beat me up because I took long to open the door when they knocked. You must remember that I have two threat assessments from the national State Security Agency. On October 26 last year I got shot, so you can’t just expect to open the door at night because you said you are a police officer. People have been killed by people who claimed to be police officers.”
Zulu said that during his arrest, other officers stayed behind in his house and stole his money.
“I will prove that there was money in my house, and I will prove that they entered my house when I was not there,” he said. “They cuffed me and pressed me against the floor. When I told them I can’t breathe, a racist white policeman said what I’m saying is just a slogan from overseas. I couldn’t breathe at that time. If one of the guys who was there didn’t intervene, I would be dead by now.”
After hearing about the alleged police conduct, KZN violence monitor Mary de Haas wrote to the station commander of Mountain Rise police station, Brigadier Boxer Pillay, demanding an investigation.